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Warning Signs

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Warning Signs

Parents are usually the first to recognize their child has a problem.  They automatically compare their child with other siblings and children of the same age, such as playmates.  The earlier problems are identified and addressed, the sooner they are resolved.  To help you decide whether or not your child might be experiencing mental health difficulties that may require the help of a professional, the following is offered for you to consider:

Children of Elementary School Age:

  • Difficulty going to sleep, reluctant to take part in activities that are normal for the child's age, or refusal to go to school regularly.

  • Frequent, unexplainable temper tantrums.

  • Hyperactive behavior or fidgeting, or constant movement beyond regular playtime activities.

  • A steady, noticeable decline in school performance.

  • A pattern of deliberate disobedience or aggression.

  • Opposition to authority and little or no remorse for breaking the rules of norms.

  • Persistent nightmares.

  • Poor grades in school despite trying very hard.

  • Pronounced difficulties with attention, concentration, or organization.

Pre-Teens and Adolescents:

  • Sustained, prolonged negative mood and attitude, often accompanied by poor appetite, difficulty sleeping, or thoughts of death.

  • Opposition to authority, truancy, theft, vandalism, or consistent violation of the rights of others.

  • Abuse of alcohol and/or drugs or heavy tobacco use.

  • Intense fear of becoming obese despite normal body weight; constant dieting; restrictive eating habits; or purging food (vomiting)

  • Frequent outbursts of anger or inability to cope with problems and daily activities.

  • Marked change in school performance.

  • Marked change in eating or sleeping habits.

  • Persistent nightmares or many physical complaints.

  • Threats of self harm or self injury; harm to or violence towards others.

  • Sexual acting out.

  • Threats to run away.

  • Strange thoughts and feeling and unusual behaviors.

Self Injury, talk of suicide, or violence requires immediate attention.  If necessary, take your child to an emergency room where a psychiatric assessment can be done.


If you suspect that your child may have a mental health problem, seek a comprehensive evaluation done by a mental health professional, preferably one trained to work with children and adolescents.